About a year ago, we spent an eventful week in the great state of Massachusetts, during which a lot of delicious food was eaten. Nothing more delicious than our meal at Oleana in Cambridge. It remains one of the best restaurant experiences of my life. It was one of those meals where everything kind of collides to make it special—we were on vacation, it was a perfect summer night, and we were seated outdoors. An outstanding parade of dishes came and went from our table and we enjoyed each dish more than the one before. It was all very special. One of the best things we ate was a smoky eggplant puree, and I recently remembered that the recipe was included in Ana Sortun’s cookbook. Why did I wait so long to try it at home?! I made it for the same dinner as the marinated mozzarella. The eggplant was almost as delicious as I remember it being at Oleana—if only we were on vacation!
The recipe is simple, but requires you to track down two ingredients you might not have on hand. Smoked salt, and Urfa (aka Isot) peppers. Really, you should have both of these ingredients on hand anyway. Smoked salt is great on almost anything, but I like using it as a bacon substitute in vegetarian recipes (like in my mac & cheese). Urfa peppers are just so delicious and we find ourselves using them whenever we need some rich and smoky pepper flavor. Which is, like, always.
Smoky Eggplant with Pine Nuts & Urfa Pepper (from Spice: Flavors of the Eastern Mediterranean by Ana Sortun)
- 2 eggplants (about 2 pounds), peeled and cut into 2-inch chunks
- 1 tablespoon salt
- 1/4 cup whole-milk plain Greek yogurt
- 1 teaspoon smoked salt
- 1 teaspoon finely minced garlic (about 1 large clove)
- 1 tablespoon freshly squeezed lemon juice (from 1/2 lemon)
- 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil (plus more for finishing)
- 1/2 cup toasted pine nuts
- 2 teaspoons Urfa chilies, plus a pinch for garnish
- Freshly ground pepper, to taste
Bring a large pot of water (big enough for all of the eggplant) to a boil. Add the eggplant and the tablespoon of salt to the boiling water. Lower the heat to medium and continue to cook at a brisk simmer. Cook for 15-20 minutes, or until the eggplant is soft and translucent. You can use a pair of tongs to test the eggplant. Drain into a colander.
In a food processor puree the eggplant with the yogurt, smoked salt, garlic, lemon juice and olive oil.
Place the eggplant mixture into a bowl and stir in the pine nuts and Urfa chilies. Season with additional salt, and pepper to taste. Serve warm or at room temperature, sprinkled with some extra pine nuts and Urfa chilies for garnish.
Serve with pita, or baguette.
July 26th, 2012 at 11:18 am
Mmm! Pinning this so I remember to make it. :-)
July 26th, 2012 at 11:19 am
this post is driving me crazy! too much morning deliciousness – I gotta have it! mental vacation when looking + dreaming on your blog.
July 26th, 2012 at 11:22 am
As an Italian I love my eggplant, and this is a beautifully written post that draws me to this recipe. Thanks for sharing…printing this out and putting it atop my recipe bucket list!
baker in disguise says:
July 26th, 2012 at 11:34 am
sounds like a variation of babaganoush… doesnt it?? yum!
Marge Hennessy says:
July 26th, 2012 at 11:51 am
As always, such gorgeous photos and lovely, escapist prose to go with them. Thank you! I have a slight fear of eggplant, since they’re sort of spongy creatures. But I have been meaning to tackle them and this is a perfect way to do it!
July 26th, 2012 at 12:00 pm
Aubergines do make such a good dip, especially combined with all the flavours you use. Smoked salt does sound very good, but not sure I will find those Urfa chillies!
July 26th, 2012 at 12:35 pm
At first I thought this sounded like baba ghanouj, but I’ve never heard of boiling eggplant for that! Sounds delicious with all the smoky peppery flavors. :)
July 26th, 2012 at 2:25 pm
Looks fabulous! Never heard of Urfa chilies before. But I’m totally into pine nuts and eggplant, so I’ll have to try this.
July 26th, 2012 at 2:48 pm
Any suggestions of where to find the smoked salt and urfa peppers in the Chicago area? Would the spice house or penzeys have it? Or could I find it on Devon somewhere? Thanks!
July 26th, 2012 at 2:49 pm
Sorry that was kind of abrupt. Recipe looks fabulous!
Ken Rivard says:
July 26th, 2012 at 3:25 pm
Ana Sortun is a friend and the back patio of Oleana on a balmy summer evening is one of the best dining spots in Cambridge. That eggplant puree is fabulous–thanks for reminding me. Ken
July 26th, 2012 at 4:45 pm
Oh, how I love Oleana!! My sister gave me the cookbook, so this dip is a must-make for me. Be sure to try the spicy fideos with chickpeas, vanilla, and saffron (to be honest, I made this because the ingredient list wasn’t quite as overwhelming as the others–delicious!). Next time you’re in Cambridge, check out Ana Sortun’s Soffra Bakery–the shakshuka is tops! I’d love if you’d post more Spice recipes you’ve made… :)
July 26th, 2012 at 5:02 pm
Hi Clarissa- the Spice House definitely carries smoked salt, though I’m guessing you’d find it at other gourmet shops. Urfa/isot pepper is more difficult to track down, though readily available online. I bought mine from Lezzet spices at Dose market. They sell online.
July 26th, 2012 at 5:42 pm
Looks absolutely delicious – great smoky flavours too. I’ve never tried Urfa/Isot peppers before – are they anything like Chipotle? Will have to try them out. Thanks for sharing!
July 26th, 2012 at 7:08 pm
Soffra Bakery was perfect, one of my favorite breakfast experiences. Yes the Shakshuka was one of the best I’ve had-ever. Unique pastries and an interesting selection of oils and mediterranean spices. I had so much fun there I even got extra stuff for a picnic for the train ride back home.
I will try this eggplant recipe, I’m a fan of smoky with my eggplant.
Vicki Bensinger says:
July 27th, 2012 at 8:30 am
I love eggplant but this is a great way to serve them up anytime. I look forward to making this. Thanks for sharing.
July 27th, 2012 at 11:54 am
Long time reader and viewer of your blog, absolutely stunning. I absolutely agree with you about Oleana. My best friend lives in Boston and I go to visit about once a year. Last fall we went to Oleana for my last night in town and it just blew us both away. The space is fantastic, the hospitality divine and the food just flows and comes out. So much flavor and lovely presentation. We both still talk about it 9 months later. I’ll be back on my next trip. I also bought the cookbook and it’s so fantastic.
On a note, if you’re back in Boston again, make sure to check out Bondir. That was our 2nd favorite place to eat.
July 27th, 2012 at 12:06 pm
Hi JBE- Glad to hear you feel the same about Oleana. It really is special, and I am finding the cookbook does a good job of recreating the recipes for home cooks. I’ll add Bondir to my list!
July 27th, 2012 at 12:33 pm
This looks fantastic! But I’ve got a question about the urfa peppers, or pepper… do you buy these as dried or fresh peppers? I’m guessing dried since you said you ordered them online. If so are they whole? or crushed? or ground? Very curious – I’ve never heard of these peppers!
July 27th, 2012 at 12:52 pm
Hi Melissa (and others curious about peppers) urfa/isot are dried, more info here: http://www.lezzetspices.com/collections/frontpage/products/isot-pepper
July 27th, 2012 at 1:07 pm
July 27th, 2012 at 7:25 pm
Isot pepper! I got mine from Lezzet at Dose Market as well. Isn’t it the best stuff? It’s all leather and tobacco and spice in flavor, and it’s just incredible with eggplant. Have you tried this recipe with roasted or broiled-till-black eggplant, to really boost the smokiness?
July 28th, 2012 at 7:16 am
bhavani- not like chipotle, really. hard to describe.
July 28th, 2012 at 7:17 am
Hey Beth- I haven’t tried it with roasted eggplant. This was plenty smoky for me, so didn’t feel any need to add additional flavor.
July 29th, 2012 at 5:04 pm
Wow! This looks amazing! I will definitely give it a go. I have never heard of Urfa chilies and I doubt I can find them here in the UK. Any alternatives? Thanks.
July 30th, 2012 at 10:16 am
Made this last night… Oh mah word. So delicious. My husband and I ate the entire thing in one sitting.
Now I need to get to Oleana and Soffra… I live about 15 minutes from Cambridge and have never been!
Ashley Bee (Quarter Life Crisis Cuisine) says:
July 30th, 2012 at 12:18 pm
Gorgeous! Look almost like hummus. I’m not the biggest fan of hummus, but I love eggplant, so I think this would be a win for me :)
July 31st, 2012 at 5:55 pm
Just received some eggplant in our co-op box and had no idea what to do with it! Good thing I stumbled upon your blog! Perfect idea! Yum! Wonderful blog, thanks for sharing this recipe!
August 1st, 2012 at 11:23 am
I love the Spice House! Which smoked salt did you use? I noticed there were at least two different types on the website and they sound like they would be very different in flavor. Thanks.
Samantha (Savvy Soybean) says:
August 1st, 2012 at 3:51 pm
I just came across your site and I love these recipes. Babaganoush has always been too creamy for my taste, so this recipe looks pretty perfect. I’d love to give this a try soon.
August 2nd, 2012 at 11:08 pm
Why didn’t you make that for meeeeee? :) Rami made it and it was a hit at his new “We are sick of eating alone” supper club
August 3rd, 2012 at 9:22 pm
This looks wonderful! My husband has a severe sesame allergy, so this would be a perfect baba ganoush substitute. I will be eyeing the eggplant in our garden with even more anticipation now. Also, I stock up on Urfa and various other Turkish peppers/spices every time I am back in NYC at Kalustyan’s. Maybe they do mail order?
Ana Cooks says:
August 6th, 2012 at 9:51 am
i ate this on Greece.it is just delicious!
August 13th, 2012 at 3:01 am
I’ve just discovered your site through Saveur (congrats on the award)! I’ve really enjoyed perusing your recipes — this one looks incredibly delicious! The images are beautiful, too — I love the way the olive oil rests on top of the purée. Lovely.
August 18th, 2012 at 3:31 pm
I just came across your blog by happenstance and love it. How ironic that you have this recipe from Ana’s cookbook. Oleana is one of my favorite restaurants of all time! In fact, it is largely why my husband and I traveled to Turkey this past May. (Cannot say enough about what an experience that was!) So, to make a long story shot, I DO have urfa pepper–straight from the town of Gaziantep from whence it comes. I actually blogged about Turkey, and peppers, and baklava on my blog: relocationtheblog.blogspot.com Now, I am running to make this eggplant dish!
August 19th, 2012 at 8:52 pm
Love this recipe. I have some small green eggplants in the garden ,ready to use in the next week . Think this may be a winner !
September 6th, 2012 at 12:27 pm
I just made this and it is really delicious. The texture of the purée is a bit loose – I wasn’t sure how much water to extract from the eggplant after boiling. The pieces were still pretty waterlogged when I put them in the food processor and dripped liquid when I squeezed them with tongs.. But despite being a bit on the runny side, the flavors are beautiful. Thanks for another great recipe.
October 5th, 2012 at 5:46 pm
I’m curious to see how other people handled the boiling aspect. I’m suspicious of this as a cooking technique for eggplant, since they’re basically little sponges anyhow. Are we meant to squeeze out the water afterward? Why not roast it instead?
October 5th, 2012 at 5:51 pm
Nervous! Not suspicious, geez. It’s just eggplant! ;)
October 5th, 2012 at 6:18 pm
Portia- Are you a conspiracy theorist? (just kidding!) Roasting will totally work. I found the boiling to be easier and faster. Also, you want some of that moisture. I drained them in a colander for a few minutes and they were totally fine and not water-logged. If you roast and the mixture seems a little dry, just throw in a splash of water.
Erin @ bigsislittledish says:
October 12th, 2012 at 3:58 pm
I made this and it is delicious! Thank you for steering me toward urfa chilies. They are fabulous and unique and I cannot wait to play with them some more!
October 23rd, 2012 at 8:28 am
I made this last week and can confirm that it really is delicious (and so easy!). I couldn’t get my hands on urfa pepper last minute so used smoked pimenton (to taste) instead. And like a couple of other commenters, I was for some reason skeptical about boiling the eggplant but was glad I followed the recipe in this regard — the dip was *so* creamy, in part, I think, because of the moisture from boiling.
an li says:
January 1st, 2013 at 4:26 pm
I have the great fortune of living around the corner from Oleana…needless to say, I eat there whenever possible! I love this recipe and substituted toasted walnuts for the pinenuts and it was also fab.
Paola (Italian chef) says:
January 14th, 2013 at 11:51 am
WOW great recipe…to look at the picture makes me mouth water. I’ll try to cook it! Thanks!
January 28th, 2013 at 1:40 am
Hi, I made this,could not get urfa..so was a bit bland for me, good but needed something..I did pop other chillis in but need to get my mitts on urfa!
March 21st, 2013 at 10:57 pm
On a mission to find smoked salt, and Urfa!
Kate K. says:
September 12th, 2013 at 8:45 am
I just made this last night for my husband and a friend. The quest for Urfa peppers was totally worth it; we all agreed this was one of the loveliest dips we ever had. Thank you so much for posting! (I LOVE your blog by the way).
February 7th, 2014 at 10:21 pm
I just made a batch of this and it’s silky smooth and bright tasting and crazy delicious. But it was so much easier than any other eggplant dip recipe I have attempted that I am retroactively angry about wasting all that time ;)
June 16th, 2015 at 10:54 pm
sensational! can’t wait to try